Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Before COVID, my dear friends, Troy in Leanna Brewer, Gentiles by birth, grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel, used to come to Jerusalem every year for the Day of Atonement. Very few non-Jewish tourists are in Israel during that time. Who wants to fast for 24 hours? There are no tourist sites open. There are no restaurants open. There is no traffic. There is no grocery store or drug store open. The entire country is shut down. So why do they come? For the experience of walking through the streets of Jerusalem while fasting and praying with the people of Israel.
I don't want to share this week about the theology of Yom Kippur—for that, please watch our video from last week. I want to share with you the experience that is Yom Kippur in Israel. It is an unparalleled event in the world.
It begins with a last meal on the evening before the fast. In Israel, there is a synagogue within walking distance of virtually every citizen, so you do not have to drive. Thus, unlike in the West, there is no equivalent of the megachurch or mega-synagogue. All synagogues are local. After the meal, religious Jews go to their local synagogue based on their ethnicity. Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardi Jews have different traditions. The Ashkenazi experience is a lot of chanting, while the Sephardic experience is filled with much more joy and music.
The nonreligious hit the streets. If you have kids, you take them out on their tricycles, scooters, bicycles, training wheels, or any new-fangled motorized contraption that they’ve just invented. There is no traffic. Your biggest concern is that the kids might run into each other. Families meet other families in the city squares.
Being an avid mountain biker, I could not resist the desire to see all of Tel Aviv during my first Yom Kippur in Israel. While fasting, I rode my bike from Ra’anana, part of the greater Tel Aviv region, or what we call Gush Dan, the Dan bloc, to Tel Aviv. Not realizing that the wind was aiding me, I explored all of Tel Aviv. I rode through Herzliya, Ramat Aviv Gimel (our Hollywood of sorts), all the way to the beach of Tel Aviv, and then through the stranger parts of Tel Aviv, Sheiken, and Allenby.
As I turned to go home, I suddenly realized why I had had such an easy ride, even with fasting. Now the wind was blowing directly at me. Getting home was quite difficult. I remember collapsing in Herzliya, unable to move, longing for a morsel of anything to give me strength. I made it home, took a nap, and then broke the fast with my family.
Before we break the fast, we walk to the synagogue. Even many nonreligious Jews will at least attend the last part of Yom Kippur to hear the blowing of the shofar. I promised not to get into theology, but it goes against everything in me to not mention at least something. The shofar at the end of Yom Kippur has several meanings. Students of the Bible will know that the Lord never commanded us to sound the trumpet at the end of Yom Kippur. So why do we do it?
“In the days before clocks, the shofar’s loud sound told the whole community that the fast was finally over and it was ok to eat,” writes the Jerusalem Post. It signifies the end of the 10 days of repentance, also known as the Days of Awe. The shofar can be a call to war, a signal that Israel was being attacked, or a sign of judgment. It was sounded at Sinai when the Torah was given (Zech. 19:16-19). While God did not command us to sound the shofar on Yom Kippur, he certainly knew that we would. I teach and believe that Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), traditionally known as Rosh Hashanah, points to the second coming. But Yom Kippur speaks of forgiveness.
Thursday morning, we began our fast in Glen Rose, Texas. I can assure you I would have preferred to be in Jerusalem. But we had ministered the night before at Open Door Church, challenging believers all over the world using GOD TV's Facebook page to enter into the fast with the people of Israel. We stayed the night with our aforementioned friends, Troy and Leanna Brewer. We were all up early and decided to pray together as we continued with the fast.
Troy prayed that God would reveal himself to Jewish people at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, where the first and second temples of God once stood. I felt a prophetic stirring in me. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7 came to mind. Both of those passages speak of the Jewish people recognizing that Yeshua is the Messiah and responding in deep mourning and travail. But Yeshua responds with love, not judgment.
“On that day—the day that the Jewish people look up into the clouds and see Yeshua and mourn—a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” (Zech. 13:1)
Could it be that while Jewish people are fasting and praying for forgiveness, at the end of Yom Kippur, when the shofar is sounding, that Messiah appears in the sky? We are careful not to put dates and times on end-time events, but we do know that the fall feasts of Israel point to the second coming of Yeshua, and at the very least, at the end of the 10 Days of Awe, we should be ready to receive him.
And for those Jews who don't know him, their eyes will be opened, as they see his sign in the sky.
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matt. 24:30-31)